Ask a building inspector – Why is my neighbour’s storm water my problem?
After the recent heavy rains, my house flooded because of all the storm water that came from my neighbour. He refuses to handle his storm water and he says because my stand is lower than his stand I must accept ALL his storm water. If I must make provision for storms such as the one we had, it is going to cost me a great deal of money. Should he not contribute to my costs? – Bill in Linksfield
Dear Bill, this is a question we get often. In my book, The Proud Home Owner, I give a great deal of information on storm water. People do not always realise how important storm water handling is and how dangerous storm water can be. Did you know that 1m³ of water exhorts 1 ton of pressure?
That is why it is very dangerous to close weep holes in boundary walls, as the storm water can push over the wall and damage the foundation over time.
The general rule is that the neighbour whose stand is lower must accept SOME of the storm water from his neighbour who is higher up, BUT the neighbour on the higher stand must make provision for his storm water as well; he cannot simply discharge it all to the lower neighbour.
As a result, you will have more storm water on your stand and you MUST make provision for this, otherwise your house will flood.
In terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1997:
“Where, in the opinion of the Local Authority, it is impracticable for storm water to be drained from higher lying erven direct to a public street, the owner of the lower lying erven shall be obliged to accept and/or permit the passage over the erf of such water; provided that the owners of any higher lying erven, the storm water from which is discharged over any lower lying erf, shall be liable to pay a portion share of the cost of any pipeline or drain which the owner of such lower lying erf may find necessary to lay or construct or the purposes of conducting the water so discharged over the erf.”
But this very clearly states that all the storm water cannot become your problem. The National Building Regulations, Storm water Disposal Requirement, states:
“The owner of any site shall provide suitable means for the control and disposal of accumulative storm water which may run off from any earthworks, buildings or paving.”
- Send a letter to the neighbour and bring this to his attention. Give him seven days to reply to you.
- If he still refuses to make provision for his storm water, contact the building inspector for your area. (Albert’s helpful hint: Call your local municipality and ask for Building Control, and ask who is your building inspector. Ask for his direct line. Call between 07:00 and 08:30 in the morning, as they go out after that and don’t return to the office until the next day). The building inspector is the person who can instruct your neighbour to make provision for his storm water.
- If your neighbour still refuses to make provision for his storm water, you should follow the legal route. Gauteng Home Inspections will do a storm water inspection and report for you, which your attorney will then use in court to obtain a court order.
- Utilise the storm water that now comes to your house. You can collect it in a tank and use it for your garden, or you can put the water through filtration and safely use the water in your house and save on your water bill. You can contact The Water Doctor for this installation.
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Who is Albert van Wyk?
Albert van Wyk of Gauteng Home Inspections and author of The Proud Home Owner has been in the building industry for more than 38 years, having built many luxurious houses on difficult stands to the satisfaction of very meticulous clients as well as office blocks, factories, cluster developments and townhouse developments. Many of the homes were featured in SA Home Owner and on the TV program, Top Billing.
Albert has extensive knowledge of the National Building Regulations and the NHBRC requirements, and is one of only 40 ITC-certified Roof Inspectors in the country.